Dark clouds hang over direct provision
2019-05-01 18:36:00 -

MIGRANT INTEGRATION IS a key sustaining principle of every society. Providing migrants with proper accommodation and a good state of living are all part of factors that help shape the integration process, and this should be a positive and important part of Ireland being a modern democracy that respects human rights. Unfortunately, the situation for many refugees and asylum seekers housed in direct provision centres does not reflect this. Life in these places have been described as torturous and appalling, and many residents confess it is damaging to their welfare, health and life chances.

Not long ago, an African woman in her 30s living in the Mosney direct provision centre in Co Meath allegedly tried to end her own life by taking an overdose. She was rushed to a hospital after the incident and at time of print was last reported to be in a stable condition.

The centre’s response has been described as appalling by Ellie Kisyombe a mother, chef, activist and political candidate for the Social Democrats, who herself has lived in such a centre for many years, receiving the meagre €19.10 stipend each week.

“This would have been the third suicide [attempt] within a period of one-and-a-half years,” said Ellie. “I remember the lady who died in Cork and the guy who died in Kildare recently, then this woman. People are dying, people are being bullied daily, and it’s because of the treatment people are getting that they’re trying to take their lives.” According to a friend of the hospitalised woman, she had been threatened by Mosney management that she would be deprived of access to the GP or any medical services, as well as access to other basic amenities given to asylum seekers, because she refused to move to a one-room accommodation provided for her in another town.

“Her decision to stay was because she wasn’t well and one of her sons was very ill and she said there was no way she could cope with her three children alone,” said the friend, who asked to remain anonymous. “She is relatively new in Ireland and needed people around her.”

“Attempted suicide is now more recurrent in DP centres, with an average about half a dozen attempts every year,” said a resident of another direct provision centre in Dublin.

The man from East Africa, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Between> February and December last year, there was a double rise in the number of residents who confessed their lives were worthless and felt unworthy to carry on.”

Ellie’s position is that “the DP centres are there to make money, not to care for people and because of the continuous suicidal attempt is why we’re very critical of direct provision.

“It’s not helping anyone. This woman who tried to commit suicide has been very sick and her child, too. There’s a very distressing voice note this woman left. You can even tell she was on the edge. There’s a woman who works at the DP centre who is a bully. She frustrated this lady.”

“I think she felt if she was out of the way, her ailing son would get the much-needed attention to restore his health,” said the woman’s friend.

According to figures from the Department of Justice, in material recently obtained by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, about half a dozen of 40 direct provision centres in Ireland are oversubscribed. This, the Dublin DP resident believes, is a contributing factor to the pressure experienced by residents. He says getting less than €20 a week makes him less a man.

The majority of DP residents who speak to the press refuse to be named for fear of being stigmatised, but their revelations offer evidence that most centres are housing people who are either unwell or driven to ill health because they are living like virtual prisoners.

“Direct provision is a barbaric system where the residents are living in open prisons. Even if they were not suffering from depression before, by the time this system is finished with them, depression will have a devastating effect on some of their lives,” says human rights activist Bernie A D’Arcy.

Residents also revealed that management make matters worse by being hostile in attitude. One resident in Mosney said: “In a sad case a couple of years ago, a female asylum seeker who was suffering from depression almost succeeded in taking her own life after she was told her distress was feigned.”

Ellie insists the DP centres are “causing horrible and severe damage to the lives of the residents” and need urgent reform.

“This system needs to go. The Government must start now understanding that there is unfair conditions and unfair treatment in direct provision that actually push people to the edge to kill themselves. We are not talking about their asylum process here, we’re talking about how to look after people day by day. We have nothing to do with their cases but we’re concerned about the treatment because the welfare of the residents is at risk.”

Priscilla Bress, a project care worker in a homeless advocacy organisation in Dublin that deals with addicts and people with depression, says: “The immediate thing is to support the person by tackling the problem that led to depression. DP centres should get residents busy with doing one thing or another because it is when they’re idle that a lot of things sets in. People with suicidal tendencies should be supported with rehabilitation, they should be regularly seen by experts like psychotherapist and psychologist until they get back to a normal situation.”

The Ombudsman and Information Commissioner, Peter Tyndall, in a report on the direct provision system, admitted that it is “an important area where very vulnerable people are living in poor conditions under the care of the State and which has no independent oversight”.

Management at Mosney could not be reached for comment.


If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact the Samaritans at 116 123 or jo@samaritans.ie


  • Princess Pamela Toyin is a journalist, author and TV presenter who has gained experience since the mid 1980s working in various fields and interacting with people of different tribes and ethnicity. With her passion for diversity, she is propelled to report a diverse range of issues that facilitate intercultural dialogue and integration, which can change social, economic, and cultural stereotypes, and believes there are lessons to be learned from everyone. Talk to her on +353 (0)87 417 9640 or email echoesmediainternational
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